Coconut Sugar: Merits, Myths, and Misconceptions
Like so many modern health food trends, there is a thriving conversation around a popular new sugar alternative: coconut sugar.
At Moodygirl Chocolate, this conversation is very important to us! That's because we use coconut sugar as the main sweetener in our vitamin-enriched vegan chocolate bars -- and for good reason.
Some dietitians praise coconut sugar as the answer to all of our alternative sweetener needs, while others claim it's no better for us than "regular" sugar. We're here to set the record straight, examining some of the merits, myths, and misconceptions surrounding this delicious ingredient.
What is coconut sugar?
Coconut sugar is an alternative sweetener made from -- you guessed it -- coconut palms. To make coconut sugar, a producer cuts a hole in a palm tree to collect sap. Then, that sap is boiled at a high temperature until all the moisture has evaporated.
The end result is a tangy, near-caramelized sugar substance that looks a lot like raw sugar. The flavor profile is more "toasty" (at least, that's how we describe it!) with some additional nuances in the flavor that make it a delicious addition to our vegan chocolate bars.
Is coconut sugar healthier than regular sugar?
More studies need to be done on coconut sugar versus regular sugar, but the bottom line is that coconut sugar has slightly more nutritional benefits than traditional sugar.
Where the production methods of traditional sugar or palm sugar burn away much of the vitamins and minerals from their natural sources, the production of coconut sugar preserves some of the nutritional value of its original palm sap. An important distinction here is that in order to get your daily quota of nutrients from coconut sugar, you'd need to eat a lot of it. Like a LOT a lot -- we're talking pounds upon pounds of coconut sugar to completely fill up on vitamins and minerals, and that's simply not possible.
Coconut sugar is also linked to a slightly lower glycemic index (a.k.a. coconut sugar causes less of a blood sugar spike than pure glucose or table sugar). Like other properties of coconut sugar, the link between glycemic index and coconut sugar needs to be studied further, but the initial results are promising.
So, is coconut sugar healthier than regular sugar? Yes. Can you have infinite amounts of it? NOPE! Coconut sugar still contains fructose and a hefty number of calories -- so packing your diet full of coconut sugar would be just as bad for you as packing your diet full of raw sugar.
Is coconut sugar good for the environment?
This is one of our favorite things about coconut sugar: it's a much more sustainable environmental practice than traditional sugar or other alternative sweeteners like palm sugar.
Because coconut sugar comes from sap, the palm trees used in its production are cultivated for long-term survival. This means no clearing giant groves or ripping up the natural landscape.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the World Bank, palm trees used to produce coconut sugar can sustainably produce sap for upwards of 100 years. This makes coconut sugar a much more environmentally-friendly option and sustainable industry, particularly compared to traditional cane sugar or palm oil.
So, is coconut sugar good for me?
The simple answer is, "Yes, in moderation." While coconut sugar DOES have nutritional and environmental benefits compared to plain sugar or palm sugar, it's still, y'know, sugar.
When you're indulging in something sweet, it's important to remember that you're giving yourself a treat. Obviously, a diet consisting of 96% coconut sugar is going to be just as unhealthy for you as 96% high-fructose corn syrup. But where coconut sugar wins out is that its benefits for you AND the planet outweigh those of traditional sugar.
The bottom line? Enjoy your delicious, delicious coconut sugar, but remember that you're still having a sweet treat.
At Moodygirl Chocolate, we're devoted to coconut sugar because it gels so well with the rest of our vitamin-enriched recipe, but also because of our commitment to the environment. When you enjoy a Moodygirl Chocolate vitamin-enriched vegan chocolate bar, you can rest assured that you're taking care of your body AND the environment at the same time.
Just remember, Moody Gals -- everything in moderation! 😉